Independence Day - Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
Experience the original OSCAR®-Winning* sci-fi epic that launched a new era in blockbuster filmmaking. Director Roland Emmerich, producer Dean Devlin and an all-star cast including Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman join forces to deliver the ultimate encounter between powerful aliens and the human race. When massive spaceships appear in Earth’s skies and blast destructive beams of fire down on cities all over the planet, a determined band of survivors must unite for one last strike against the invaders before it’s the end of mankind.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
There's something about the 90s era summer blockbusters that make me happy whenever I sit down to revisit them. Movies like 'Jurassic Park,' 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day,' and 'Batman Returns' are all prime examples of films that I saw multiple times in the theater as a kid. It didn't matter if I'd just seen it a few days earlier if a friend called up and wanted to go again, I was more than happy to blow some of my allowance on a ticket. In 1996, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin's 'Independence Day' was the "it" movie of that summer. It was a cornball throwback to 1950s alien invasion films and 1970s disaster epics all rolled into one - and I ate it up over and over again. I loved this movie - while it was in theaters. 'Independence Day' was the first film where I felt the "scale" of a film. Suddenly, watching the movie on a 25" tube TV, the film lost a lot of the impact and excitement when it was released on VHS, and a lot of the enjoyment went with it. Thankfully in this grand age of Blu-ray and 4K transfers, the fun spectacle of 'Independence Day' is back.
We always assumed humans were the only intelligent beings in the vast universe. With multiple radio telescope arrays and orbiting telescopes, we searched the cosmos for other signs of life, we just never thought other beings would come looking for us. On July 2nd, the world awoke to news of a gigantic alien craft setting into an Earth orbit. As President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), a former Air Force pilot and Gulf War hero tries to figure out how to respond to what may or may not be a threatening species, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) gets to work deciphering the signal the aliens are sending through our own satellites.
When a dozen smaller crafts the size of major metropolitan cities break off of the mother ship and strategically station themselves above government capitals around the globe, it becomes all too clear that these aliens have hostile intentions. When our fighting forces, including men like fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) are called into action, it may be too late. Once the aliens attack, the massive devastation sends humanity into turmoil. With their advanced weaponry and shields, nothing we throw at them seems to make any difference. When David stumbles onto a way to disable the invading Alien's defenses, humanity must launch a last stand strike or face complete and total annihilation.
It's strange to me to consider that twenty years later there are perhaps some people out there who haven't seen or even heard of 'Independence Day.' That summer that I turned 14, this was the movie that every kid in school was looking forward to and then went to see over and over again. I even remember some friends of mine competing with each other over how many times they could see it in the theater. I shared the rampant enthusiasm and went to see it at least four times, possibly more. I loved it, it was goofy, but action packed. It had a sense of humor but it also maintained the human drama to make you feel like the end of the world was near.
Then the film came out on VHS. I grew up in a house that loved our movies. My Dad was an early member of Columbia House because at the time it was the most convenient and cheap way to buy tapes, so it was a regular occurrence for us to own the movies we loved seeing in the theater. 'Independence Day' was different. Something about seeing that massive alien attack ship floating over the white house and then blowing it up simply didn't translate to the small screen. It was like having someone take a pin to a party balloon, all of a sudden, I just did not like 'Independence Day' anymore and so it became something to ridicule. I stopped calling myself a fan of the movie and would harp on the film's intended cheesiness and the simplistic plot. I became a movie snob.
Thankfully, the rise of DVD and HD began a change for the better. Televisions started getting bigger, screens started getting thinner, they changed shape from a square box to a widescreen-friendly rectangle. All of a sudden, that big screen theatrical experience was attainable at home! And around that same time, I started enjoying 'Independence Day' all over again. Yes, the movie is simple and easily digestible fast food cinema intended for wide audiences, but it's still a fun experience all these years later. I still give a little cheer when Will Smith punches out an alien and throws out his badass "Welcome to Earth!" line. I still want to give a little first pump at the crescendo of Bill Pullman's inspirational St. Crispin's Day knockoff speech, and I still laugh and cheer at Randy Quaid's Russell Casse who gets his revenge against the aliens who kidnapped him decades earlier.
'Independence Day' isn't a perfect movie, not by a long shot. If you're so inclined, you could write a doctoral dissertation about the film and its faults, but you would be missing the point. 'Independence Day' is a crowd pleaser, it's not meant to be dissected and analyzed for its artistic merits, you're supposed to sit down and turn your brain off and be entertained for two hours. Writer and Director Roland Emmerich and Co-writer and producer Dean Devlin instinctively knew how to press all of the right buttons to make this movie a hit. It's funny, suspenseful, exciting, and continues to be wildly entertaining. I'm actually grateful that technology has improved to the point that the home viewing experience can mirror the theatrical one to some extent. I'd hate to have gone the rest of my days hating this movie for no real good reason when there is so much innocent good-natured fun to be had. I came away from this viewing ready and excited for 'Independence Day Resurgence' and hope this new outing can live up to its predecessor.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
'Independence Day' invades Ultra HD Blu-ray as part of a three-disc 20th Anniversary Edition combo-pack featuring one Ultra HD Blu-ray and one Blu-ray housing both the 2 hour and 24 minute theatrical and 2 hour and 33 minute extended cuts plus audio commentaries, a second Blu-ray containing most of the special features, and a Digital HD redemption code for use with iTunes or Ultra Violet. There are no pre-menu trailers on the Ultra HD Blu-ray.
It's also worth noting that, unlike the Blu-ray, where pressing Play gives users the choice between cuts, my Ultra HD Blu-ray defaulted to the theatrical cut. Click on the Set Up sub-menu to access the extended cut.
'Independence Day' welcomes arrives with a vivid, but imperfect HVEC/H.265 encode and HDR10 / WCG grading that is framed in the film's original 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
Before I dive in, I want to make very clear this Ultra HD Blu-ray represents the best 'ID4' has ever looked on home video and will be the way I revisit this film. Watching this Ultra HD Blu-ray is a pleasure with a significant portion of the film's visual effects work holding up surprisingly well. Given the era in which it was produced (the dawn of the modern CGI age), some things look weightless (fighter jets and the fireworks-esque debris entering the atmosphere in the film's final moments come to mind). But much of the disaster carnage was created with practical elements and it really pays off. Benefiting from HDR and WCG, 'ID4' boasts warmer red and orange tones, which really amp up the movie's many explosions. You're also going to see more shadow detail (look at Hiller and Jasmine's reunion) as well as added highlight details (check out the scene where Hiller is dragging the alien corpse across the white sand desert, or any of the Alien weapon-beams).
However, despite these visual enhancements, in pixel-peeping A to B comparisons, I can't see much (if any) added resolution when comparing the Ultra HD to the Blu-ray. The added colors and HDR make the UHD more vivid, but there isn't any more textural detail in character faces, costumes, sets, or special effects. If anything, the UHD only reveals added noise and/or film grain -- given the film's era, I'm leaning towards grain, but that's just a guess on my part. It does make the experience more filmmic -- more like going to a movie theatre projecting actual film -- than the Blu-ray, which appears waxier and flatter overall, and less colorful. I believe purists will enjoy this extra information, though I would be interested in hearing responses from folks with projection setups.
After going back and forth between the Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray, it's clear this UHD version is an appreciable upgrade over its HD counterpart, though it's not always a dramatic one. UHD BD colors are richer, and the added dynamic range makes up for similarities in perceived resolution. I also find, thanks to that added film grain, some visual effects look a little more weighted, though I suppose some viewers might prefer less "noise". Overall, this is a strong UHD Blu-ray presentation, but one that is limited by its source materials.
While the video may have minor limitations, 'Independence Day' fights back in the audio department with the strongest (and most aggressive) DTS:X sound mix I've heard thus far. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if DTS uses this movie to help sell the format. For this review, I am using a Denon AVR-X6200W nine-channel AV Receiver, on loan from Denon, and Marantz MM7205 two-channel amp to process and power a 7.1.4 DTS:X configuration.
I began by watching select sequences on the Blu-ray to get a base sense of the 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix, which Matthew mentioned as having a "constant sense of direction and dimensionality." In truth, while you can sense its two-decade old origins (modern sound effects are a little more intricate; these ones are more tactile), this 5.1 track could compete with, and best, many modern blockbusters. Throw in Neural:X up-mixing and the results are even better.
And then you step up to the native DTS:X mix...
Which is, hands down, the most authoritative and aggressive the format has seen thus far. Everything that worked well in the 5.1 mix is enhanced with rear and overhead surround actively. Explosions roar around you. Wind blows. Bullets and sparks and alien screams ricochet. And let's not forget David Arnold's grand musical score. Outside intimate dialog scenes, height channels engage almost constantly. Also, if you like LFE, you're in for a real treat.
What really impresses me about the mix, though, isn't its bombasity nature, but how many of the individual details you can hear in each effects pan. Listen the infamous landmark destruction sequence where you hear the whoop of the tumbling fire truck, the boom-boom-boom-boom of the Empire State Building's explosion, and the individual White House debris pieces colliding with the helicopter's spinning rotor. The whole disc, highlighted by its moments of disaster porn carnage, is nothing short of sheer audio delight destined to put a smile on the faces of surround junkies and DTS:X earlier adopters.
The one issue worth noting is the disc's dynamic range, though I don't see this as a flaw. The main menu is cranked to a ridiculously high volume (matching the film's loudest moments). Also, it took me a little while to dial in my preferred listening volume, because if you set your AVR for dialog scenes, the action set-pieces are a little too loud. That said, I also watched the film at extremely low volumes (the baby was napping as I was writing) and all the clarity and detail remain. It's just that when you crank this soundtrack up, and you definitely should, it's a very theatrical experience.
If you are set up for DTS:X (and have access to an Ultra HD Blu-ray player), this disc is worth buying for the mix alone.
Ultra HD Blu-ray & Blu-ray Disc One
Audio Commentary: This is a vintage audio commentary track from Director and Co-writer Roland Emmerich and Producer Co-writer Dean Devlin, the pair regularly refer to this release as a "Laserdisc" which put a big smile on my face. They cover a ton of relevant information about the film and also go into a lot of depth about the cut scenes for the extended edition. If you want to learn a lot about this film, this audio commentary is still the best way to go.
Audio Commentary: Visual Effects Supervisors Volker Engel and Doug Smith talk about all of the effects work that went into bringing this film together. Just hearing them talk about it in detail is more than enough justification for their Oscar win.
ID4 Data Stream Trivia Track: This is a just a bunch of cool little factoids about the film or the science presented in the film. Some can be a bit lengthy and difficult to read, but they're still kinda cool - available only for the Theatrical Version of the film.
'Independence Day Resurgence' Trailer: (HD 2:07) (Blu-ray ONLY)
Blu-ray Disc Two
Independence Day: A Legacy Surging Forward: (HD 30:40) This new documentary is pretty great where everyone takes a look back at what worked so well about the first film and made it so fun and what they hope to bring to the next film coming to theaters.
Monitor Earth Broadcasts: (SD 51:08) This is a collection of all of the news broadcasts that were created for the film and only briefly scene in the film.
Creating Reality: (SD 29:19) A really cool look back at what went into all of the visual effects of the film from practical models on wires to the then state-of-the-art digital effects.
The Making of ID4: (SD 28:29) This is another vintage making of feature hosted by Jeff Goldblum, made to look like it was done in the 50s. Some decent material here but nothing earth shattering.
ID4 Invasion: (HD 21:57) A fake news show that uses unused clips and outtakes from the early portions of the film.
Combat Review: (HD 9:04) If you wanted to look at all of the destruction and explosions - this is the extra feature for you!
Original Theatrical Ending: (SD 4:16) Dean Devlin provides a commentary for this alternate ending which was a wide thing to change because it's a bit too silly.
Gag Reel: (SD 2:05) Some funny moments but pretty standard cut up stuff that's pretty common and feel a bit staged.
Gallery: (HD) A collection of stills, production design sketches, and storyboards outlining the various major aspects of certain scenes and sequences.
Teaser Trailers: (SD 5:09) A collection of brief teasers for the film.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:30)
TV Spots: (SD 3:57) Much like the teaser trailers, these brief TV spots were really effective at getting the word out about the film.
While Roland Emmerich has destroyed the world a dozen times over in the last twenty years, his 1996 collaboration with Dean Devlin holds up as one of the better disaster/alien-invasion movies in the history of Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. Its impressive sense of spectacle and destruction are grounded by a series of genuinely likeable characters who give the movie a sense of fun and stakes. Are there some silly bits too? Sure, but I'd personally argue the movie functions quite well within its own world and, after revisiting it for the first time in years, I'm cautiously optimistic about the impending sequel.
As an Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack, it not only includes everything from the 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray (two different cuts of the movie plus all the same bonus materials), but also a phenomenal demonstration-worthy DTS:X soundtrack and a video presentation that, while limited at times, tops all other iterations released so far.
The question becomes whether or not this is worth the price premium over the standard Blu-ray. As I write this, you can pick that up or $10, and this Ultra HD Blu-ray set for $30. To that end, unless you're set up to take advantage of HDR10 and DTS:X, or planning to do so imminently, I would say to hold off.
If you are a DTS:X early adopter and passionate about surround sound, 'Independence Day' is a Must Own Ultra HD Blu-ray.
If you have a larger HDR10-capable 4K display, but no plans to upgrade to DTS:X, I'd say we're more in the Worth A Look range (you might want to demo it out in a store or at a friends' house first) unless the price comes down. When and if it does, though, it's a no-brainer.
Overall, average those thoughts together, the ID4 UHD BD is Recommended.
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